BACKGROUND Doctors' strikes have a negative effect on hospital performance indicators. Hospital mortality during such strikes is the most important indicator. OBJECTIVE To determine the effects of the 2010 strike on Polokwane Hospital. METHODS Information was collected from the Hospital Information System, Polokwane Hospital Casualty Department, wards and theatres. RESULTS During the 20-day strike, a total of 262 patients were admitted to Polokwane Hospital, with 40 patients to the surgical department; 96 operations were performed in the hospital and 40 in the surgical department; and 50 deaths were reported in the hospital (8 deaths in the surgical department). During 20 days of a non-striking period in May 2010, there were 975 admissions to the hospital, with 125 to the surgical department. In the entire hospital, 340 operations were performed, and 79 in the surgical department. For this period, 61 deaths were reported in the hospital and 12 in the surgical department. CONCLUSIONS The total number of patients admitted to the hospital and the surgical department during the strike was significantly lower than during a non-striking situation. Total mortality during the strike in Polokwane Hospital decreased, compared with the normal situation, but it increased when judged against emergency cases. However, when mortality was qualified by the number of admissions, it showed a significant increase. Strikes seriously and significantly affect service delivery.